Maggie's FarmWe are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a highschool education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, dogooders, controlfreaks and idiots is all that we ask for. 
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Sunday, January 31. 2016The Man Who Tried to Kill Math in America
Few college applicants even have the IQ to master basic calc or stats, hence Math for Poets and Rocks for Jocks. Like the New Math in the 1960s (Multiply 2X3 in Base 6  what?), the math experts want the kids to dig into the mysterious depths of numbers. It will never happen.
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I have an idea! Let's government and colleges of education the hell out of education 'policy'. Especailly since it's all but impossible to show how either one has done much to 'help' educate American children in the past century.
Colleges of Education are just giant suckholes of atbest intellectual mediocrity. The faculty [and way too many students] merely aspire to mediocrity. My grade school years were from 1956 to 1964. I did fine in math till new math came in, and I never recovered.
In contrast w Bodie, I very much liked New Math, especially writing all those proofs, which we did from 9th grade on. Before New Math, math was boring for me. New Math made math fun for me mainly because of the proofs. It was empowering to write proofs. But judging from my high school classmates, New Math was not a good fit for most of them. I still remember our Junior Class President writing in my yearbook, "No more math misery."
A family friend who was a Phi Beta Kappa math graduate from a Big Ten school was my 9th grade math teacher. With all her intellectual bonafides, she was not a good teacher. I taught myself the course from the textbook and a good textbook it must have been for me to do so. In spite of having a bad math teacher, I liked math more at the end of the year than at the beginning of the year, thanks to the textbook, Ed Schools have been messing up education for a hundred years. Apparently Kilpatrick was at the forefront. Those who become good teachers generally do so in spite of what they learned in their respective Ed Schools. Instead of trying to invent the next big theory which will explain everything, Ed Schools should concentrate on the nuts and bolts of education: what has worked and not worked in 2500 years of formal classroom instruction. My daughter has one of the most amazing memories of anybody I know but when she was going into the fourth grade, I was concerned that she didn't know here addition and multiplication tables. When I talked to her teacher, she explained that they wanted to teach how math worked but not the rote memorization stuff!
A few years ago, a bunch of people from work tutored some fifth grade kids in math and they didn't seem to know how to do long division! This is a REAL problem! How do you get kids interested in science, math, engineering, etc., if working the math is so painful? When I talked to her teacher, she explained that they wanted to teach how math worked but not the rote memorization stuff!
Estimation is a very important reallife math skill. Estimation is a skill that comes up all the time. I serve on the Board of my HOA. In a recent meeting, we needed a figure for how much a special assessment would cost for given units of various sizes. I came up with an estimation for what the special assessment would be for various unit sizes, a.k.a. ballpark figure, for the Board. No, I didn't have an EXACT figure for 2.053% , but 2% did just fine. If you don't know your "rote memorization," you will be unable to estimate. Period. The reason I am good at estimating is my combination of "rote memorization" and New Math skills. From the various proofs I did in 9th grade of the various distributive, communicative, and associative principles for division and multiplication, I figured out for myself that 19X41=(201)X(40+1) which can be estimated to be 20X40. I had a math professor in college who had met Max Beberman the creator of UICSM, the New Math program I had in high school. My professor informed me that New Math Max Beberman told him that the intent in his UICSM New Math had NEVER been to ignore learning the "rote" multiplication and division skills. NEVER. One problem with New Math/ UICSM was that it was being taught, especially in elementary school, by teachers whose understanding of math was not good. Those who designed the various New Math programs should have taken that into account. This is a REAL problem! How do you get kids interested in science, math, engineering, etc., if working the math is so painful? With a calculator, you can get the answer for a calculation a lot faster than by hand. However, if you are careless, you can be way off. The best way to prevent this is to do an estimation before you set up, with exponents and numbers. Again, estimation skills are very helpful, which comes down to "rote" skills. So glad my kids missed all of this junk. I have a relative who substitute teaches. She has now become knowledgeable about Common Core math, so she is a very popular sub. Most subs don't want to go anywhere near it.
As it was explained to me, the kids get put into groups and they figure out math on their own. I was flabbergasted. My relative claims it works and that they do manage to learn math this way. I am wondering what happens when these common core kids get to college where the professors teaching math and science and engineering have not changed how they teach classes? I think they will be lost...? What a horrible experiment to try out on our kids. 10
The real trouble with math isn't so much that most people aren't smart enough to learn it, it is that most teachers aren't any good at teaching it. Another problem is the culture surrounding it which has many facets but can be summarized as being dedicated to the ideas that only smart people can understand it, that only the tough should survive, and that if it has to be explained you are too dumb or lazy to understand it. I don't have the sources in front of me any more, but a few years ago I looked up the numbers and found that a far greater percentage of students are washed out of first year calc than out of the Marine Corps. Why? The only plausible explanation is that the Marine Corps is interested in and dedicated to making Marines and they are good at, while colleges are interested in and dedicated to "filtering". The real trouble with math isn't so much that most people aren't smart enough to learn it, it is that most teachers aren't any good at teaching it.
Good teaching is hard. It requires a huge amount of effort, amazing communication skills, and real empathy. For the last 50 years we've taken our teachers from the bottom percentile of graduates, let militant unions dictate standards, and rewarded the incompetent and lazy. It's not just math that's the problem. The idea persists that we can teach "higher order" skills to everyone, and that we can start at younger and younger ages to do so.
There is no evidence for this, but people believe it should be true, so it's true. What they do have evidence for is that people good at math eventually understand its inner structure. From this they conclude that "hey if we just taught everyone the inner structure instead, almost everyone would be good at math." That is bad reasoning, suggesting that they aren't all that good at "higher order" skills themselves. We should teach children to be tall, so that they can be better at basketball. re: basketball
Fair enough. But, it doesn't then follow that teaching how to play basketball better will have no benefit. Just because "higher order" skills (whatever that means) can't be taught to everyone doesn't mean they can't be taught to anyone... or even to most people. Short people  due to genetics or age or gender  learn how to play basketball all the time. Put another way, if you imagine "math ability"  whatever it is which is analogous to height in basketball  would fall on a normal distribution, what part of the bell curve should education focus on? Only the "right tail"? The question is: Are we really trying to produce people who understand math as well as their natural abilities allow and can use that knowledge? Or, are we trying to sift through the population for the "math gifted" (whatever that might mean)? Math is bases other than 10 is hardly an "educational fad".
If you want to understand, among other things, how computers work, you at least need to know a little binary  which is not all that hard (I picked it up at the tender age of 13 in '62). But the line "Few college applicants even have the IQ to master basic calc or stats". My undergrad days were in a Liberal Arts program which included a year of, you guessed it, calc. But we're talking 50 years ago, which seems to suggest we've dumbed things down way too much. A college education isn't a right and the people who get there should be a few cuts above. Anything less is what the Democrats believe. I was a college professor for 10 yearsscience and math. The math fad ruined an entire generation. The "Discovery Math" fad said just turn kids loose and let them discover math on their own...good luck with that. When they got to college and signed up for my class it was clear that they had discovered nothing. What a waste.
